Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mt. St. Helens - East Side!

Or maybe I should say 'the other side.' The east entrance to Mt. St. Helens is less accessible and therefore not as popular. That's unfortunate because, in my opinion, it's much more interesting. Although the west side has that lovely observatory and the view of the Toutle River valley, the east has been left to recover on its own. You see the three distinct areas of devastation, created by the May 1980 horizontal blast from Mt. St. Helens.

After driving along a twisty road through beautiful old growth forest, you turn a corner and there it is - the scorch zone. In this first zone, which extends up to 17 miles from the volcano, the trees were instantly killed by a cloud of hot air and fine ash. You can see these ghost trees still standing after 31 years and the new growth since then.

Next is the blowdown zone from 7.5 to 15.5 miles from the mountain. In this area, the trees were snapped off and lie pointing in the direction of the blast.
In the closest zone to the mountain, the tree removal zone, the trees were actually ripped out of the ground, roots and all. I was confused because there isn't much debris in that area, but the ranger told us these trees were not just ripped out of the ground, but were blown for miles. Sure enough, we did see them in the other zones, but I didn't get a good picture. Just imagine giant trees flying through the air!

You also get a nice view of Spirit Lake, which rose 800 feet in a tidal wave effect when the north side of the Mt. St. Helens collapsed into it. That snapped off all the trees on the surrounding hills and carried the logs back to the surface of the lake. Although a lot have since sunk to the bottom, you can see all the logs that remain floating to this day.

At the end of the road is a parking lot with a ranger who gives an informative talk and answers questions. That doesn't sound like much, but he was very good. But for those who just have to do more, there are 368 steps to the top of Windy Ridge.

The flowers weren't quite as magnificent as on the other side, but there were some nice patches. Here's nearby Mt. Adams as seen from about half way up the steps.
For those of you who don't want that much of a workout, I'll be honest. It isn't worth it. You get a view of Spirit Lake which isn't as good as the one from the viewpoint along the road. And you see Mt. St. Helens from 200 feet higher than at the bottom of the steps. It's just for bragging rights.

Here's the lady herself. But wait! What's that I see?


That's a lot of steps to run down.
Before you ask, that was just blowing ash coming off the edge of the mountain. Although it does put out steam at times, that would come from the center.

Speaking of steam, here are a couple of steam engine pictures for my father.

We found it in Elbe, WA, and I had to stand in the street to get the picture, so I couldn't get the whole thing in. Looks old.

And in the 'what the heck' category, I want to know who rides in the lawn chairs?


  1. We visited Spirit Lake and Windy Ridge a couple of years ago... wait, make that "several". The view of Spirit Lake with the floating logs was something else. Looks like you had grand weather!

  2. I remember Mt. St Helens erupting but at the time I never appreciated the scale of the explosion. Its amazing to see the stages of recovery, some quick and some maybe never will fully recover.

  3. Thanks for an interesting and informative post. The raw power of Mother Nature is an amazing thing. Back in 1982, when we visited Mount Rainier, we stopped by Elbe and took a short steam train ride ... nothing fancy, but it was a great spring day for a short train ride.

  4. Thanks for sharing the East Side. I've never ventured over to see that side. I remember when she blew! I was outside with friends when the sky became dark in Spokane. At 14 yrs old we thought the world was coming to an end, LOL! Wow the memories! Cheers! ~M

  5. Are those lawn chairs where the in-laws ride? I think that would be a good place to put them. ;c)

    Nice pictures, amazing all the logs still floating in the lake.

    The power of the volcano is hard to comprehend. Glad I wasn't in the area when it went up.

  6. and all that happened within seconds--how amazing!! Beautiful mountain shots girl!!!

  7. I agree about the East side being better. Love the view of Spirit Lake from there.

  8. Way back then I worked for the Army C.O.E. We had masks and lotsa work to do all over the N.W. area..I remember it sounding as if the paper was thrown on the front porch in Ballard..No paper, but I saw the ash cloud and knew my week/weeks were going to be busy.
    Did you check out any of the campgrounds on the Eastside? There are some nice one's.